The only way in which I understand people that work in cubes, the people that need the red swing line stapler to live, is that they need barriers to define themselves. I worked in a cube and I makes me crazy, I can’t handle office rules, I like being able to get up late (or in the case of today, get up early and watch 2 movies before work) and tip well for coffee, drink fine scotches for “research,” and all things similarly “off.” But another reason I like my job is because of my shyness and inability to talk with humans. When I was a child, I never spoke to anybody I wasn’t related to. Not in a sociopath way, but in a “I am an alien,” way I can’t relate to common folk’s conversations. Logically, I know that becoming a hermit would make me a twisted misanthrope so my job helps me be OK with humans. The bar is my barrier.
The word bar comes from barrier. It’s a barrier to keep raging booze zombies away from guzzling straight from bottles and taps. For me, it’s a way that I can talk to people in a way that I can read them. Nobody wants to impress me when I’m working, thusly there is and immediate lack of pretense when talking with customers. Though frequently, a patron will want to impress others, it is simple, to make it very clear to this “man” that it is only by the bartender’s grace that he will impress any one. But otherwise, I get paid to talk with people when they have ever weakening defenses. The thing is, most people don’t know that it’s a symbiotic relationship. I ride my bike to work, get cut of in traffic by some dumb bitch talking on her cell phone and later, I will have to make her a drink. We melt my hate away by exchanging photos of our dogs on our cell phone, laugh about how bad the dog’s breath is and I don’t have to hate her anymore. Its almost as if the dumb bitch has become someone who I have humanized, this is a selfish act on my part. But I need this to relate to people, I need to be forced into it. But I need that barrier. And if I happen to hate the person, after trying to find common ground I get the smallest chance to make them less of an ass-hole, and I still get paid.
You may perceive this as a skewed kind of J.D. Salinger way of life. Or that I am a truly depressed misanthrope, self loathing and project my disdain even onto myself. Well, if I admit it, am I less of an ass? I heard a man speak about depression and how its unlike other illness, if you have brain cancer, and you feel like spending all of you time reading Shakespeare to feel better, well, you are still going to die. But if you are depressed, isolated and detached, and hearing 2 guys talking about spear fishing is entertaining, and comforting someone just laid off makes you feel better, is it that wrong to treat the symptoms, get paid and help people? FYI, exploring a real answer of that question is not something I want to get into.
I don’t feel like I am the only one who is like this either. To name a few: I know a guy who I think, without the benefit of his wife, tending bar and fly fishing wouldn’t care about the world. A friend of mine who says, “while I’m working, the only friends I have don’t have any legs, well none that I can see, they float to the bar and give me money and float away at 2am.” That guy, much like Han Solo, acts like he doesn’t care, but really he does, and I think just needs time off from caring. Other guys say of their day off “going to read a book and sit around with my cat,” or “have 9 beers while playing final fantasy 7 until my girlfriend gets home and I have to act normal.” I think these guys need the barrier like I do.
Any good bartender, wouldn’t let you know about this need to have a barrier, or disability. To quote Murray Stenson, “People forget it’s the hospitality business, not the cocktail business.” I know that Murray is right because everyone says he is the best bartender in the world. People who drink gin and tonics say Murray is the best, people that sip the Last Word Cocktail once and say it tastes awful still say he is king, people that only drink late night port, poured straight from the bottle to the glass say that. Murray makes you feel at home, justified, validated, important and remembered. I don’t know if Murray has a disability that he can’t talk to people without a barrier. But I do know of Murray, like most of my customers would know of me, I know nothing about my bartender. My customers don’t know about my Lego collection, jobs I’ve lost , being a butcher in college, my favorite Chet Baker song (half breed apache), the 3 times I drove across the country, doing shots of absinthe with giant Irishmen in New Zealand, or who my girlfriend is. Murray knows at least half of these things. I know these things about him, he is fast, he has worked other places before the Zig Zag, he is quick with a joke, is respected by all, is a fan of bop jazz and prefers to keep to himself. I’m sure its because he gives it all behind the bar, and when he isn’t back there, he is being a different person, like all of us.
I have a second theory that he is actually a superhero fighting a battle against extra dimensional monsters that begins everyday at 2:30am and ends at 6am. This is conjecture, based mostly on what I think he is capable of.